Irish Water Spaniel vs Brittany - Breed Comparison

Irish Water Spaniel vs Brittany - Breed ComparisonIrish Water Spaniel is originated from Ireland but Brittany is originated from France. Irish Water Spaniel may grow 7 cm / 3 inches higher than Brittany. Irish Water Spaniel may weigh 10 kg / 23 pounds more than Brittany. Both Irish Water Spaniel and Brittany has almost same life span. Both Irish Water Spaniel and Brittany has same litter size. Irish Water Spaniel requires Moderate maintenance. But Brittany requires Low maintenance


irish water spaniel - historyThe Irish Water Spaniel is one of the larger spaniel types and also one of the oldest.

He is sometimes referred to as the Southern Irish Water Spaniel. Hailing from Ireland, the precise origins of the dog aren't altogether sure. It is believed that the dog came from other dogs from Persia and there are references to these water dogs from as early as 1600.

The modern breed was developed in Ireland in the 1830s. The breed's purpose is that of a hunter of waterfowl and he swims strongly.

The Irish Water Spaniel was recognized by the AKC in 1884. In 1890 the Irish Water Spaniel Club was formed.

brittany - historyOne of the most intense bird dog breeds in existence is the Brittany, bred for hunt. The breed used to be called the Brittany Spaniel, but since the breed is closer to a setter or pointer, that moniker has been dropped. The Brittany is named for the French Province in which they were originally developed. Sometime from the 17th to the 19th centuries, the breed was developed. Images of a very similar dog can be found on 17th century paintings and tapestries. However, the first written description comes from 1850 by a Reverend Davies, describing a hunting episode. The breed was recognized officially in the early part of the 20th century and made a splash at the 1900 Paris Dog Show.

The first official standards were written in about 1907 and the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1934.The Brittany is expected to point to and then retrieve birds and other small ground game. Because the Brittany both points and retrieves they are known in the U.K. as a Hunt, Point and Retrieve breed or an HPR, and they have more Dual Champions than the rest of the AKC Sporting group.

There are actually two types of Brittanys in the minds of many breeders. There is the “French” Brittany and the “American” Brittany. When the breed arrived in the United States in 1931 they became immensely popular in a short period of time. In 1942 American Breeders began the American Brittany Club, rewriting the French standard to fit the dog they knew. Today there are definitely difference between the two sub-sets that can easily be seen. The French dog is smaller than the American dog. The American dog is a runner pacing ahead of the hunter while the French dog works more closely with their human companions. Another visible difference is that the French accept black spotted Brittanys, while in the United States a black spotted coat is considered a fault. Both sub-sets are known for their willingness to follow human directions, their eagerness for the hunt, and their agility and speed.

Unfortunately, the European wars took their toll on this breed as they did on many others. Following the second World War, their numbers in Europe were drastically reduced. The French had stop breeding them altogether during the war. It was in this depleted gene pool that the French agreed to accept the black spotted Brittany. Along with the U.S., Canada also does not recognize the black spotted Brittany.

Basic Information

Gun dog
Gun dog
Height Male:
51 - 59 cm
20 - 24 inches
43 - 52 cm
16 - 21 inches
Height Female:
51 - 59 cm
20 - 24 inches
40 - 50 cm
15 - 20 inches
Weight Male:
25 - 30 kg
55 - 67 pounds
14 - 20 kg
30 - 45 pounds
Weight Female:
25 - 30 kg
55 - 67 pounds
12 - 18 kg
26 - 40 pounds
Life Span:
10 - 12 Years
12 - 13 Years
Litter Size:
4 - 12
1 - 12
Medium dog
Medium dog
Other Names:
Rat Tail, Southern Irish Water Spaniel
Brittany Spaniel Brittany Wiegref Epagneul Breton French Brittany
Colors Available:
Dark Brown, Liver
tricolor, orange roan, liver roan, black roan
Longish hair - thick and very curly
Flowing Medium length
Affectionate, Alert, Cheerful, Courageous, Curious, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Independent, Intelligent, Lively, Loving, Loyal, Outgoing, Playful, Protective, Responsive, Social, Stubborn, Territorial
Alert, Energetic, Friendly, Gentle, Intelligent, Loyal, Playful, Sweet
Moderate maintenance
Low maintenance
Kids Friendly:
New Owners Friendly:


irish water spaniel puppy - descriptionA peculiar feature of this dog is its hairless tail which is partly covered in curls which the rest is all but hairless, giving him the nickname of Rat Tail or Whip Tail.

Looking much like a Poodle with his tight oily curls, the Irish Water Spaniel is a medium to large sized purebred dog, a robust, compact built dog with a skull which is shaped like a dome.

The muzzle is longish, the eyes dark brown and intelligent looking and the ears are long and floppy.

His hair is thick and curly and it sheds very little so that the dog is regarded as being hypoallergenic. The medium length coat is a dark brown, liver color with fairly tight curls that may even tend to cover the eyes.

It is interesting to note that he has webbed feet, which is useful for when the dog swims.He stands at roughly 51cm to 61cm and weighs between 25 to 30kg.


Temperament in any dog is affected by socialization and the way the human owner raises the dog. The Irish Water Spaniel is a water loving dog, being active and energetic.

He is an intelligent dog and easy to train and socialize. When trained he becomes such an obedient dog. He has also got a light-hearted side to him and is actually known to be quite amusing and clownish, providing plenty of laughs for you.

They make good family dogs, getting on well with children in the home as well as with other pets. They're also able to make good guard dogs, taking the protective roles seriously. He isn't an aggressive dog but he has a warning bark that can be a good warning to intruders.

brittany puppy - descriptionThe Brittany is much like other hunting dogs – pointers and retrievers – in size and stature. He is solid and strong but not heavy. He is compact with an average size head and floppy ears, docked tails or short natural tails, and expressively intelligent looking eyes. He is athletic, energetic, and alert. He has a long, elastic and free gait. The French dog is smaller and the dog with black spots is accepted. The American Brittany is larger and only a tri-color of orange, liver and white is acceptable.


irish water spaniel dog - characteristicsYour active Irish Water Spaniel just loves water so you can count him in whenever you go swimming. That is one characteristic of the Irish Water Spaniel – he just loves to be involved in all the action you're busy with.

He makes an ideal family pet for an active family, and he will be a loyal and devoted pet who will provide a lot of fun to your family with his mischievous side.

He is confident, independent and strong willed so first time dog owners should bear this in mind. He is essentially just a fun loving, busy dog and if you make sure to exercise him well and make sure he is a participating member of your family, he'll be your most loving and devoted friend.

brittany dog - characteristicsThe Brittany is particularly trainable and friendly. They love to play and are sweet-natured. They don’t due well with harsh correction though and a stern look will cause them to wither. Socialize them young or they can become shy around strangers. They are loyal and family oriented. They can easily become attached to their humans.

Health Problems

irish water spaniel puppies - health problemsA generally healthy breed, the Irish Water Spaniel, just like with most other dogs, can fall prey to some of the more common dog ailments of which hip dysplasia is one.

Bone and joint problems like this can lead to lameness even in young dogs.

Eye diseases are also a problem, and cataracts can form in the eye, particularly when the dog is older and create a cloudy look to the eye. It's not painful for the dog.

Hypothyroidism, a treatable hormonal disorder is another disease worth being aware of.

brittany puppies - health problemsThe breed is a hardy one and Brittanys are mostly healthy dogs. In Europe 1 in 5 dogs dies of old age and that age is usually 14 or 15 years. They do have a few issues that they may be susceptible to. These would include:

Ears – prone to infections

Hip Dysplasia – bones don’t fit well into joints

Epilepsy – mild or serious seizures are possible.

Hypothyroidism – Low levels of thyroid hormone

Canine Discoid Lupus Erythematosus – autoimmune disease

Caring The Pet


irish water spaniel dogs - caringYour Irish Water Spaniel requires quite a bit of grooming that will involve his coat, his nails, his teeth and his ears. The double coat doesn't shed much so it can be easily maintained by brushing the coat twice a week.

It can help your water spaniel to look good by sending him in to a doggy grooming parlor to have his curls neatened. This is a dog that loves water and swimming, and you will need to check the inside of his ears for dampness, wax build-up and debris. This can all combine to cause nasty ear infections.


The dog is energetic and will need to be exercised. Take him for walks, play ball games with him and allow him to go on hikes with you or to go swimming. He loves being involved in all your activities as he is a social, active dog.


Highly energetic, it will be important to feed your Irish Water Spaniel with food that enhances his energy levels. There are some good quality commercially manufactured dog foods on the market. Choose one that caters for active, athletic dogs such as the Irish Water Spaniel.

Dry kibble is more recommended to prevent canine tooth decay. Mix in some home cooked foods from time to time such as cooked chicken, rice, pasta and vegetables and try to include some raw meat every now and then as well. Make sure he has constant access to fresh, cool water.


brittany dogs - caringDon’t overfeed your Brittany. Keep him at hunting weight by feeding a half a cup up to 2 cups per day depending on the size of your dog and activity levels. Serve this in two meals not one.

Health issues

Ears – prone to infections – make sure that you check them and wipe them out routinely to prevent infections.

Hip Dysplasia – bones don’t fit well into joints – this can be genetic or otherwise, causing lameness and arthritis. If severe it can require surgery to correct.

Epilepsy – mild or serious seizures are possible. This can be genetic/hereditary but is set off by an infectious disease of the brain, head injury, poison, tumor, or metabolic disorder. There is no cure, but medication can be very effective.

Hypothyroidism – Low levels of thyroid hormone – can cause drooping eyelids, obesity, lethargy, mental difficulties or irregular heat cycles or all of this. Medication is available as it is for humans but must be taken daily for the rest of the dog’s life

Canine Discoid Lupus Erythematosus – autoimmune disease that is rare in dogs. Cats and humans can also have it. It is a skin disease and does not become the more serious and deadly Systemic Lupus. The Discoid version of this disease causes loss of pigmentation and a scaling on the nose which can then progress to the skin around the ears, eyes and genitals. There could be ulcerated lesions and tissue death in more severe cases. Sun exposure can make the condition worse.

Exercise and games

The Brittany is a hunting dog that acts like a pointer but will retrieve fowl and birds in the water or on land. If you don’t hunt, the Brittany can still be your family dog. They need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. They need a job if they are not going to hunt and expect them to be distracted by every bird they see. Try flyball, agility, FAST CAT, field trials and dock diving. They are very task oriented and have boundless energy. They excel at obedience and confirmation as well.

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